An overview of measurement methods

How is the acid-base balance measured?

Is my acid-base balance what it should be? There are various ways of finding an answer to this question. Some can be done at home, but most are done only by specialist labs. So what are these methods specifically? Read on for an overview.

Options for measuring pH values and their limitations

Despite its popularity, daily testing of urine pH using test strips to determine the acid-base balance leaves a lot to be desired. This is because the pH of our urine naturally fluctuates between 5 and 8 depending on what we eat and drink. In addition, the majority of the acids in urine take the form of ammonium compounds, which pH test strips cannot detect. Only one percent is excreted as “free” acid and thus detectable by pH test strips.

Can such tests still be helpful? Yes, but only if urine pH is measured regularly and at relatively short intervals throughout the day. Meanwhile, it is also important to always eat the same foods and to have normal kidney function. This method can then provide an indication of what the acid-base balance is.

The Friedrich Sander method

Friedrich Sander is regarded as a pioneer of acid-base analysis. Developed in the 1950s, his measurement techniques are still used today to assess the acid-base balance. In addition to measuring urine pH, this method uses five measurements spread throughout the day to determine urinary buffer capacity while also factoring in the individual’s eating habits.

Key parameters for using this method to measure pH: Urine samples should be collected every three hours starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m. Meals should be taken only after a sample is collected and what was eaten should be documented. Interpreting the results correctly requires expert training, with each day’s findings visualised as a line graph.

Alternative to pH values – Net acid excretion

Precise statements about the acid-base balance can be made by determining net acid excretion. This involves analysing the urine collected over a 24-hour period in terms of all the substances excreted, which help provide an accurate picture of the acid-base status; in other words, that day’s net acid excretion. The higher the rate of renal net acid excretion, the greater the body’s acid load.

This makes measuring net acid excretion over the course of a day a viable alternative to measuring urine pH values. However, having samples collected and then analysed by a specialist lab is very expensive.

Taking a food history

What we eat has a massive effect on our acid-base balance. So taking a food history is a sensible and extremely practical way of identifying how healthy a person’s acid-base balance is. A food chart is used to check whether a person’s diet contains more acidifying or alkalising foods. If an acid-base imbalance is indicated, targeted dietary measures can be taken to restore balance.

Tip: Check out our food table now to get an idea of which way your diet is leaning.

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